How Pharmacists Can Cross Cultural Barriers to Medication Adherence


To ensure medication adherence among ethnically diverse elderly patients, senior care pharmacists must consider their cultural perspectives.

To ensure medication adherence among ethnically diverse elderly patients, senior care pharmacists must consider their cultural perspectives, according to an article published in The Consultant Pharmacist.

Noting that roughly half of all older adults who take at least 1 medication find adherence challenging, Cynthia X. Pan, MD, FACP, AGSF, and Wing Fun Leo-To, BS, PharmD, of New York Hospital Queens, aimed to better understand the influence that cultural background has on the adherence needs of aging patients in minority groups.

“For pharmacists, cultural factors are not generally considered when counseling patients about drug adherence, drug interactions, or drug-herb and drug-food interactions,” Dr. Pan told Pharmacy Times in an email. “There are many personal factors that influence how patients manage medications, but often, we do not think of them as cultural factors. The benefit of thinking from a cultural perspective is that you can better understand where the patient is coming from, and start from some common ground.”

The 2 investigators reviewed case vignettes of minority patients with African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Southeast Asian cultural backgrounds. Their conclusions were broken down into a number of considerations and tips for treating such ethnically diverse patients, including:

  • Making generalizations about cultural trends is not the same as stereotyping. Further information is always needed to determine what is appropriate for particular individuals, but broadly applied common behaviors can suggest the proper next steps.
  • Reasons for compliance must be stressed, so avoid questions that only require a “yes” or “no” response. Instead, use reflective-listening and open-ended questions. Brief eye contact is important, though it is seen as disrespectful to the elderly in some cultures.
  • During medication management discussions, find out whether the culture allows for family involvement in the patient’s treatment. Sometimes the answer is yes, but other times, it is no; however, family members can aid in decision-making and adherence compliance.
  • Don’t shy away from complementary and alternative therapies that may aid the relief of side effects of Western medicine.
  • Preventative medicine and follow-up care may be ignored by some cultures, so it is important to stress the need for both.
  • Patients who are present-time conscious may need to be introduced to the importance of taking medications at specific hours, since they may not understand the reasons behind it.

“Especially for elderly patients, it is always important to take the time, listen actively, and connect at a personal level to build a trusting relationship,” Dr. Pan continued. “Physicians should pay attention to the same issues that we mentioned about time orientation, cultural perspectives, listening, taking time, and connecting. We cannot treat everyone the same way, because we are not all the same. In today’s fast-paced world and remote access, we all tend to spend less face time, which is what is the most important.”

Related Videos
Laboratory test tubes and solution with stethoscope background | Image Credit: Shutter2U -
Image credit: Andrea Izzotti
Inflation Reduction Act is shown using the text and the US flag - Image credit: Andrii |
Pharmacy Interior | Image Credit: Tyler Olson -
Male pharmacist selling medications at drugstore to a senior woman customer | Image Credit: Zamrznuti tonovi -
Pharmacist assists senior woman in buying medicine in pharmacy - Image credit: Drazen |
Pharmacy, medicine and senior woman consulting pharmacist on prescription. Healthcare, shopping and elderly female in consultation with medical worker for medication box, pills or product in store - Image credit: C Daniels/ |
Image credit: fidaolga -
Pharmacists checking inventory at hospital pharmacy- Image credit: Jacob Lund |
Young male pharmacist giving prescription medications to senior female customer in a pharmacy | Image Credit: Zamrznuti tonovi -
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.